Former AU President William Walker dies

AUBURN-William F. Walker, who served as Auburn University’s president from 2001-04, died Tuesday of complications from cancer. He was 69.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10, at First Presbyterian Church in Auburn. A reception will follow in the church’s fellowship hall. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to the First Presbyterian Church Community Ministry, the East Alabama Food Bank, or the William F. and Myrna Walker Family Endowment for Scholarships.

“We mourn the loss of an important member of the Auburn family,” said AU President Jay Gogue. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Walker’s family and friends.”

Walker came to Auburn in 1988 as dean of the College of Engineering, and 11 years later was promoted to provost. He was named interim president on Feb. 12, 2001, succeeding William Muse, and elevated to president by unanimous vote of the AU Board of Trustees on June 3, 2002.

During his tenure as president, Walker quickly outlined a vision to ensure the university’s financial soundness, focus its sense of mission and accountability and to rejuvenate the “Auburn Spirit” by improving communications with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Board of Trustees.

“I am deeply saddened by the untimely death of former Auburn President Bill Walker, who was both a friend and mentor to me,” said Dean Larry Benefield of AU’s College of Engineering. “Bill understood what made a great university just that – and had a vision to meet the criteria necessary to greatness. His goal was to recruit faculty who were outstanding both in teaching and research, and to give them the resources they needed to succeed.”

Born Dec. 1, 1937, in Sherman, Texas, Walker earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He later got his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Oklahoma State University.

Walker came to Auburn as engineering dean and a professor of mechanical engineering from Rice University, where he was a faculty member from 1965-88. At Rice he served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science for nine years. During much of his tenure at the Texas institution, he was a professor of both mechanical engineering and mathematics.